04 Sep How to Style Your Home for Sale Like a Pro
So, you’ve decided to sell your home. Congratulations! Property styling significantly increases your chances of reaping the highest possible sale price and with a little planning you can style your place yourself like a professional. To get your property picture-perfect, read and bookmark our room-by-room styling guide and go over it before each open-home inspection.
Why style your property?
Property styling, or home staging as it is also called, has become big business due to the considerable returns it generates. Braden Walters from Byron Bay McGrath Estate Agents served as director on the board of the Real Estate Institute of NSW, has sold over $1 billion worth of real estate and worked in Sydney’s galloping Inner West market for more than 10 years. He strongly recommends vendors style their homes or employ professional property stylists such as Bowerbird Interiors, who he has worked alongside. “In most cases furnishing and styling can add up to $50,000,” Walters says.
Let’s talk costs
Professional styling costs usually start from around $2,000 for basic six-week packages for small properties. Prices can rise to more than $10,000 to fully furnish and decorate large homes. However, if you have a knack for interior styling and the time to do it, it’s possible to cut these costs by staging your home yourself. You’ll also get to keep the styling props you purchase.
Tip: Companies such as Nathan + Jac offer an in-between option where you can purchase curated full-room styling packs, smaller accessories packs or individual pieces from their handpicked collections.
Who are your target buyers?
Before you get excited and hit your favourite homewares shops, identify your target buyers. Do your home and its location appeal to investors, professionals, families or downsizers? Different demographics have different needs and it’s wise to reflect these in your styling. If your target buyers are professionals, it could help to dress up that spare nook as an office; though if you’re appealing to families you might be better to present it as a nursery.
Tip: Take inspiration from this coffee table and style yours with a small stack of design books and a feature object in colours that match your interior.
Consider your target buyers when choosing your style
“Ten years ago some stylists would just use the same furniture in every property; now it’s all tailored to suit each target buyer,” Walters says. “Currently, industrial suits the young buyers, Scandinavian suits the young families, Hamptons-style suits the older buyers and your basic furnishings suit investors.”
Your home will also determine your choice of style – a country Federation home will need different decor to a new apartment in a contemporary inner-city complex.
Select a colour scheme
Sticking to a colour palette creates instant cohesion. Start by taking a look at each of your rooms. Do dominant hues keep reappearing? You might have vast washes of colour like this blue interior, bright ‘pops’ or accents, or a monochrome backdrop like the black and white living room below.
Neutral is best when styling to sell, but if you’re keen to use bold hues, limit these to two strong shades. “Add colour with cushions and artwork yet keep the major pieces neutral,” Walters advises. After choosing your colour scheme, remove all superfluous furnishings that don’t fit your palette.
If in doubt, white it out
Choosing a colour scheme can be daunting, so if you feel out of your depth go all-white. This neutral hue is sometimes snubbed for being overly safe, but selling a home is not the best time to get adventurous with colour – that blazing red feature wall or purple curtains you love so much may be off-putting to buyers. White also gives the illusion of a larger space and brightens a home – two qualities that are highly prized in real estate.
Declutter, declutter, declutter
If the three most important rules in real estate are location, location, location, then the three most important rules in styling are declutter, declutter, declutter. If an object does not add beauty or have a functional purpose it needs to be hidden or removed. This applies to large furniture such as the second sofa that makes your modest living room feel cramped, and to small knick-knacks.
Tip: Remove all photos and personal effects – you want buyers to imagine themselves living there, not you.
Drawing up a budget
With real estate agent’s fees, building inspections, legal bills and stamp duty – not to mention the price of property – chances are you already know how much money you can afford to spend on styling. As well as one-off purchases such as furniture and decor, factor in weekly expenses such as fresh flowers over the course of your four- or six-week campaign. Start by replacing or buying what you need the most rather than prioritising decorative items.
Cutting the costs
To avoid budget blowouts, use what you already have to style your home: a creative eye, artfully arranged coffee table books, homewares, collectables and greenery.
Instead of buying fresh flowers before every open home, rein in your expenses by purchasing potted plants, such as orchids from a supermarket, which will flower for the duration of your marketing campaign. Tree branches in vases of water also make a strong statement and are freely available in most neighbourhoods, as are seductively scented flowers such as gardenias, which infuse your home with fragrance.
Markets are teeming with found objects and bohemian bargains that can be used as unique styling props. If you’re buying new furniture or decor, don’t underestimate large department stores for on-trend discounts and household basics.
Scour auction sites and online retailers for sales and get canny about what’s really necessary – you can probably get away with buying new cushion covers and reusing the inserts.
Tip: Now is the time to ask your friend if you can borrow that mirror you’ve been eyeing off or see if your mum can lend you a lamp to brighten up a dark entrance.
A room-by-room guide to styling
Living areas: Allocate a good portion of your budget to your entrance, living, dining and entertainment areas. Compose coffee table books on decluttered shelves, decorate a side table with flowers, drape a throw over the scuff mark on your sofa and team it with some cushions in your chosen colour scheme.
If your floor is in bad nick you can buy rugs for less than $100. Roll them up after each open home and they’ll remain as good as new for every inspection. See the woven basket and vintage chest pictured here? Styling props like these are great for concealing clutter.
Tip: Speaking from experience, the washing machine is a handy place to hide mess at the last minute. Just remember to empty it before you turn it on…
Shelves: You don’t need to style every centimetre of your home; free space is a vital ingredient. Look at these bookshelves – approximately half the nooks are empty and those that contain objects have plenty of surrounding room.
Stick to your colour scheme and experiment with arranging vases, plants, collectables, sculptures, art, found objects and everyday homewares you might already own such as scented candles or decorative bowls. Try stacking some books horizontally and others vertically for visual balance and be sure to leave some empty space.
Kitchens: Real estate agents need ample space to display property brochures and marketing material, so keep the bench as clear as possible, particularly if you have a combined kitchen and entertaining area.
Luxury appliances such as coffee machines evoke an upscale ambience, so use these to style your kitchen instead of bringing in extra props. A bowl of apples or pears can add greenery, or for a pop of colour use oranges, which this kitchen has done to great effect. Strip your cabinets and pantry of everything except the bare essentials too – you’ll be surprised at how little you can live with.
Bedrooms: To arrange your bedroom like a professional property stylist, scatter cushions at the head of your bed and cast a textured throw, like this chunky knit, at the foot of your bed. Choose textiles that tie in with your chosen colour palette or style.
Play around with decorating your bedside tables with two or three books, a vase of flowers or greenery, a scented candle or collectables. For the finishing touch, switch on your bedside table lamps and hang an artwork or two above your bed if the space is unadorned.
Wardrobes: Potential buyers always peek inside built-in robes and the more free space you create, the larger they will appear. If it’s winter, pack up your summer wardrobe and put it in storage, or visa versa, and invest in some matching wooden coat hangers for a touch of style.
Stash daggy tracksuit pants or stained t-shirts out of sight along with valuables and jewellery – the laundry hamper is a handy hiding place if you’re styling in a hurry.
Tip: Getting a head start on boxing some things up now will make it easier to pack everything up later when it’s time to move.
Bathrooms: Resist the urge to splurge on a space that people don’t spend much time in or prioritise in open home inspections. Instead, limit your styling to new white towels, a fresh bar of soap, a potted plant and a scented candle or aroma diffuser.
You can purchase plain fluffy bathlinen for just a few dollars each from large department stores, and if you roll up face washers hotel style, no-one will ever know how little it cost to create a look of luxury.
Empty bathroom vanities of everything you don’t use every day and hide toothbrushes and toiletries out of sight.
Add finishing touches
After each of your rooms are dressed up in their best, include one or two vignettes to set the scene and help buyers imagine themselves living there.
Dust off that tray lurking in your kitchen cupboard and set it with coffee cups and a magazine to hint at relaxing weekends at home. These extra details go a long way in suggesting to the subconscious how the space could be used, and help conjure an emotional connection for potential buyers.
To cover all bases, we’ve put together a handy pre-inspection styling list for you to print. After giving your home a thorough clean, read this through before each open home inspection and get your property ready to sell.
- Clear all clutter and personal effects, especially photographs and valuables
- Sweep the entrance and outside areas, weed the garden, mow the lawn and shake out door mats
- Water all plants inside and out
- Turn on all lights and lamps inside and out
- Light any candles or switch LED candles onto ‘flicker’ mode
- Angle shutters to let in the most light or open curtains and blinds
- If it’s cool, turn on your heaters or light a fire; if it’s warm, switch on your air conditioning
- Play soft, ambient music throughout your rooms or, if you have digital speakers, share your Wi-Fi details with your real estate agent so they can play a customised playlist
- Change the water in all vases of flowers
- Flip over the reeds in aromatic diffusers to refresh the fragrance
- Empty the bins
- Scatter some cushions on your couch and cast a throw over any any worn patches
- Dress up beds with textured throws, cushions and fresh bedlinen
- Put fresh towels in bathrooms (to save time, keep new towels rolled up in a box and pull them out before each inspection)
- Flush all toilets and put the seats down
- Wipe water from all showers, baths, benchtops and sinks
- If a mess of objects materialises at the last minute, load everything into a suitcase and wheel it out with you when you leave before the inspection
- Make sure your real estate agent knows which candles to blow out if they’re locking up after the inspection
- Give your real estate agent keys and electronic swipe passes to front, back, side, balcony and garage doors; round up any pets, then grab a coffee nearby before the buyers flood in. You deserve it!